WASHINGTON — Confronted with strongly anti-same-sex marriage statements he made on the Georgia state House floor in 2004, one of President Obama's nominees for the federal bench would not say if his views had changed or not since then.
"My personal opinion was, at the time, over a decade ago, that I was in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage," said Georgia state judge Michael Boggs, whose nomination to the federal bench has created an open war between Obama and progressives. "My position on that, senator, may or may not have changed since that time, as many people's have over the last decade."
In the opening round of questions at his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Boggs declined to state his personal views on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, saying it would not be "appropriate" to do so, but was quick to distance himself from controversial votes as a lawmaker.
Concerning his vote in favor of a law that would have required a state registry of doctors who perform abortions, Boggs said the vote was a "mistake" because the registry could have put doctors in danger. Boggs said he didn't understand that dynamic when he cast his vote.
Abortion-rights groups say Boggs' past show him to be anti-choice. Boggs said his personal views on the matter — whatever they are — aren't reflective of how he'll rule.
"My record [as a state judge] is the best evidence that i can separate any political or partisan or public policy position i have from my role as a decision maker," Boggs said. Later he said, "My personal opinion is irrelevant."
LGBT rights groups have also condemned Boggs' 2004 statements, which were specifically aimed at what he called "activist judges" who forced marriage for same-sex couples on states that tried to ban it. At a Senate confirmation hearing for the federal bench, Boggs refused to state his personal opinion on marriage or other matters, saying it wouldn't be "appropriate" for him to discuss them.
Regardless of where he stands personally, Boggs said, his views will not influence the way he rules on matters of law.
"My position on that, as reflected by those personal comments in 2004, have never had any import whatsoever in how I decided cases or how I analyzed issues both as a trial court judge an an appellate court judge," he said.
Throughout the early rounds of questioning Tuesday, Boggs distanced himself from his past positions as a state lawmaker. Stances in favor of abortion restrictions, the Confederate flag and opposition to same sex marriage have raised alarm among progressives hoping to scuttle Boggs nomination, which came as part of a White House deal with Georgia's Republican senators to prevent them from blocking a slate of judicial nominees.
Boggs said the controversial positions, such as the votes in favor of the Confederate flag, were a matter of him voting the conscience of his conservative Georgia district, rather than his personal views. When it came to the flag, Boggs said choosing between his own distaste for the Confederate symbol and his district's support for it was "agonizing."
Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.
Contact Evan McMorris-Santoro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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